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E-commerce class opens up the world to Internet users

Larry Burkhardt

“I predict the Internet … Will go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.”

– Bob Metcalfe

3COM founder and inventor


Well, I guess we all make mistakes from time to time. Fact is, the Nevada County Community Assessment Project reports that 72 percent of local residents have Internet access at home or work. Use of computers and the Internet has gained acceptance by consumers faster than televisions, VCRs or telephones did.

Now that most of us have learned to turn on the computer, we’re using it for more than simply playing games or writing the occasional letter or office memo. We’re using the Internet for commerce – for locating and purchasing products of all sorts. A growing percentage of us are using the Internet to buy clothing, electronics, vacations and even cars.

With all this consumerism going on, new markets are opening for manufacturers and suppliers. No longer is a manufacturer limited to the market that his sales reps can personally touch. Today, products can be sold around the world, not just from Los Angeles and Chicago, but just as easily from Nevada County.

Successful Internet marketers learn very quickly that selling on the Net is not without its demands. Like everything else, there are more effective ways of doing things and less effective ways of doing things. Successful techniques and methods must be studied. The potential is great for those who take the time and make the effort to learn.

All of this translates into significant opportunity for economic development. If products are to be sold on the Net, why not from here in Nevada County, to the benefit of our local employers and ultimately to that of our job base?

The ERC recently concluded a five-session class for local employers in e-commerce. Funded by a grant from the California Rural E-Commerce program, the curriculum was developed by a group of local professionals, and instruction provided by the Sierra College Small Business Development Center.

Seventeen local employers of all types and sizes attended the class sessions, designed to provide information and insight necessary to bring a higher level of success to their e-commerce efforts.

Class participants included sizeable manufacturers engaged in business, to business transactions, to small retailers and service providers selling directly to consumers. Very simply, the notion was to provide the knowledge necessary to increase sales on the Internet, which should lead eventually to the need for more employees to support increased activity.

The first class session provided the employers the opportunity to hear from others in our community who have been quite successful in their own e-commerce efforts. Krystal Groom of the Barge Connection, Don Racine of Mini Mania, Kathi Daugherty of A to Z Supply, Joe Burgard of Aaburco, Inc., and Jamie Low of Search Engine Marketing shared their personal experience and tips on selling everything from pastry makers and sprinkler heads to European river vacations and car parts over the Internet.

Over the next four weeks, the interactive class dealt with a wide variety of topics, including Web site design, order fulfillment, connectivity options, security, privacy and ethics, marketing and customer service.

A key feature of the e-commerce class was the involvement of several community volunteers who are professionally involved with various aspects of e-commerce. Our thanks to John Paul and Chip Carman of Spiral Studios, Patrick Clancy of Tristream, Robert Trent of Velocity 7, Katy Hight of Katy Hight Design, Dennis Racine of Racine Web Design, Shaun McCloud of NCCN and Steve Hurley, a private consultant.

The opportunity to work one-on-one with these volunteer mentors gave each class participant the chance to really personalize the curriculum information and make it applicable for their specific business.

Feedback from the 17 companies has been quite positive. Each will now have the opportunity for continuing follow up from the Small Business Development Center to assure continued progress.

As this appears to have been a very productive exercise, the ERC intends to repeat the class for another group of local employers in the early fall of this year. We invite you to contact the ERC for further information if your company would like to take advantage of this opportunity.

“Where … the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons.”

-Popular Mechanics, 1949

You know, it’s clear that none of us really have much of an idea where this is all heading. We all realize that technology is moving at an ever-increasing rate. We ought to take advantage of the opportunities that allow us to capitalize on the advances being made – advances that can increase the bottom line of our business and offer the opportunity for employment to more local residents.

Larry Burkhardt is president and chief executive of the Nevada County Economic Resource Council.


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